State theatre

by Michael

A couple of weeks ago, while the Queen was opening the British Parliament for a new session – in that way she does – former Reuters correspondent John M Morrison was asking himself the question: ‘Should the Queen’s speech get an Olivier award?’.

His post focused on the innate theatricality of this formal state occasion – the costumes, traditional rituals, words and gestures. But it reminded me that back in the 16th Century, when theatre was but an emerging artform, putative dramatists did, in fact, work on the ‘scripts’ and staging of these pageants. Part of their work was to emphasise the relationships between the protagonists, showing on the grand stage of the streets of London, in what might today be termed ‘promenade theatre’, who was the boss of whom.

I’d love to get my hands on modern-day pageantry and update the display of relationships to reflect contemporary politics. So although I find it amusing that the Justice Minister hands the speech to the Queen – as if underlining the fact that it was written by the Government, not the Palace – how much more fun would it be to arrange the running order to highlight more strongly the nature of the puppet show? To introduce new rituals that demonstrate the true state of politics in the country?

And I need to research it again, but I’m sure there are lovely moments in the Lord Mayor’s Show, too, that could do with being updated so that the ceremonies are illustrative of relationships between the state, elected officials, unelected dignitaries and the people.

Perhaps what is called for is some illegitimate street theatre to play with these ideas. But actually, it needs to be for real – a genuine pageant being played with self-awareness and deliberation.

I should write to Boris….

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